Meta-analysis of avian and small-mammal response to fire severity and fire surrogate treatments in U.S. fire-prone forests.

TitleMeta-analysis of avian and small-mammal response to fire severity and fire surrogate treatments in U.S. fire-prone forests.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsFontaine, JB, Kennedy, PL
JournalEcol Appl
Date Published2012 Jul
KeywordsAnimals, Birds, Ecosystem, Environmental Monitoring, Fires, Mammals, Population Dynamics, Trees, UNITED States

Management in fire-prone ecosystems relies widely upon application of prescribed fire and/or fire surrogate (e.g., forest thinning) treatments to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem function. Recently, published literature examining wildlife response to fire and fire management has increased rapidly. However, none of this literature has been synthesized quantitatively, precluding assessment of consistent patterns of wildlife response among treatment types. Using meta-analysis, we examined the scientific literature on vertebrate demographic responses to burn severity (low/moderate, high), fire surrogates (forest thinning), and fire and fire surrogate combined treatments in the most extensively studied fire-prone, forested biome (forests of the United States). Effect sizes (magnitude of response) and their 95% confidence limits (response consistency) were estimated for each species-by-treatment combination with two or more observations. We found 41 studies of 119 bird and 17 small-mammal species that examined short-term responses (< or =4 years) to thinning, low/moderate- and high-severity fire, and thinning plus prescribed fire; data on other taxa and at longer time scales were too sparse to permit quantitative assessment. At the stand scale (<50 ha), thinning and low/moderate-severity fire demonstrated similar response patterns in these forests. Combined thinning plus prescribed fire produced a higher percentage of positive responses. High-severity fire provoked stronger responses, with a majority of species possessing higher or lower effect sizes relative to fires of lower severity. In the short term and at fine spatial scales, fire surrogate forest-thinning treatments appear to effectively mimic low/moderate-severity fire, whereas low/moderate-severity fire is not a substitute for high-severity fire. The varied response of taxa to each of the four conditions considered makes it clear that the full range of fire-based disturbances (or their surrogates) is necessary to maintain a full complement of vertebrate species, including fire-sensitive taxa. This is especially true for high-severity fire, where positive responses from many avian taxa suggest that this disturbance (either as wildfire or prescribed fire) should be included in management plans where it is consistent with historic fire regimes and where maintenance of regional vertebrate biodiversity is a goal.

Alternate JournalEcol Appl
PubMed ID22908713